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Monday, June 1, 2015


Kaibab National Forest
Spring Valley Tank with Kendrick Mountain in the distance.

By time the Sitgreaves Complex Fire swept through the woodlands north of Parks, it was 98 years overdue. Nearly a century of unbridled vegetation growth coupled with drought years had created tinderbox conditions and the forest was ready for a good cleansing. So, when a lightning strike near Sitgreaves Mountain on July 13, 2014 ignited layers of forest litter, fire managers used the incident to effectively treat 11,080 acres of unhealthy land. All but 53 acres of the blaze burned at low-to-moderate levels of severity, creeping along the
ground taking out brush and small trees thus reducing the likelihood of future devastating fires. What was left behind by the fire is a patchwork of forest conditions that benefit wildlife habitats and promote diversity of forest resources.
The site is being rehabilitated and can be explored via the Spring Valley Cross-Country Ski Trails that pass near and through the  footprints of both this event and also the 2010 Eagle Rock Fire. Roughly a third of the 8-mile RS Hill and Eagle Rock Loop system has been impacted by fire. The trailhead is intact as are the first couple of miles, but halfway through the Eagle Rock leg, the trail enters the first of a mosaic of burn sites. As would be expected, heavy damage to the trails requires stepping over snags and dodging scoured gullies. Thankfully, new signs clearly mark the route. Hiking here involves leap-frogging from marker-to-post-to-tree-blaze, so be sure to sight the next sign before proceeding. In between the charred patches, pine seedlings have been planted and fences installed to protect aspen sprouts from browsing elk. Two beautiful stock tanks, plus views of Kendrick Mountain the San Francisco Peaks and the moist green fields of Spring Valley augment this trip through the genesis of a healthier high country forest.
The 2010 Eagle Rock Fire burned parts of the trails.

LENGTH: 8 miles per the forest service map. Our gps readings measured 8.8 miles for the two loops.
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 7160' - 7893'
From the Interstate 17/40 junction in Flagstaff, travel 15 miles west on I-40 to the Parks exit #178. Go 0.2 mile, turn right at a stop sign and continue 0.2 mile to a second stop sign on Old Route 66. Turn left, drive 0.6 mile to Spring Valley Road (CR 141), turn right and go 5.5 miles to the trailhead on the left signed for Sanderson Pass Road and FR787B. Roads are paved and sedan-friendly cinder.
INFO: Williams Ranger District, Kaibab National Forest, 928-635-5600

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